ETSI launches new effort to improve on TCP/IP in wireless networking

The hunt for a new protocol that will work better than TCP/IP for wireless broadband is not over.

ETSI has formed a new industry Specification Group to look at developing an alternative networking protocol to TCP/IP for use in 5G networks.

ETSI said that the work of ISG NIN will be applicable initially to private mobile networks and then expanded to public systems, both in the Core network and eventually including the Radio elements.

The group’s first output will be a Report detailing the shortcomings of TCP/IP, and how the new alternative system would overcome those shortcomings. ISG NIN will also work on specifying how the technologies initially identified by ISG NGP will form the basis of the new protocols, as well as creating a framework for testing the efficiency and effectiveness of the new protocols, including over radio.

The search for a new set of non-IP base protocols has been ongoing for a while. That’s because many think TCP/IP is incompatible with the very efficient use of spectrum that many advanced services will require. In 2015, ETSI formed a group lead by BT’s Andy Sutton called the “Next Generation Protocol” Group. Its key output was a list of required deliverables (KPIs) for a new networking protocol.

The Group also concluded that a fundamental change is needed, and that a new Industry Specification Group (ISG) focussing on Non-IP Networking (NIN) should be created. So ISG NIN will also act as responsible body for the maintenance of ISG NGP Deliverables if need arises.

That work has moved forward into the newly established Non-IP Networking Group, which is being chaired by John Grant, BSI. Kevin Smith, a previous Chair of the NGP Group, Vodafone, will serve as the new group’s Vice Chair.

The ETSI NIN Group page says, “The TCP/IP protocol suite was designed for an age in which communication was between computers and terminals in fixed locations, and in which the user interface was text rather than dynamic media such as audio and video. Mobile operators have identified a number of problems with its use in core and access networks, and it is unsuitable for some of the new services that are proposed for 5G.”